John Roper’s Preston North End’s fans’ panel verdict: Play-offs looking like a bridge too far now

An improved show by North End but not enough to re-ignite the play off campaign after this goalless draw against lowly Huddersfield Town.

By John Roper
Sunday, 5th July 2020, 10:31 am

PNE had the better of the first half and although they had more possession and more of the good play they just could not find that final ball which would have surely won them the game.

Barkhuizen looked dangerous on the floor up front but was second best in the air against two big Huddersfield centre-halves and North End’s best options in the first half came from down the flanks.

After the break the home side went to a more attacking formation bringing on two subs straight after the break. Preston generally defended well in this game but just couldn’t put the ball in the net.

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The empty John Smith’s Stadium as Preston took on Huddersfield on Saturday (photo: Tony Johnson/JPIMedia)

The manager did change it later on in the game and we started to gain the upper hand late on having three decent chances in injury time which the goal-shy North End forwards just could not put away.

The effort was good on the afternoon and we can have no complaints on that score but our efforts in the final 20 yards of the pitch will live to haunt us long after the season is over.

Alex Neil made four changes to the side beaten by Derby in midweek with Bauer, Harrop, Barkhuizen and Ledson coming in. North End started the game on the front foot and got plenty of joy down the flanks with Potts and Harrop linking up well with Barkhuizen, who certainly had the pace to beat the two Terriers centre backs.

The game became a bit more even after the quarter of an hour mark but the home side couldn’t find a way through a very solid North End midfield, which covered the centre-backs very well and never really left Davies and Bauer exposed at all.

Huddersfield only really had one long range effort in the first half which was easily dealt with by Declan Rudd.

After the break it was the home side who made the first move bringing on two big strikers and deciding to adopt a more route-one strategy after getting little change out of the North End defence in the first half. Huddersfield had more of the ball in the early part of the second half but they seldom looked like scoring as Davies and Bauer stood firm.

Late on Maguire had a chance, then Sinclair shot wide and finally Maguire fired into the side netting with the last kick of the game and North End’s chance had gone.

If this game had have been played earlier in the season then the result might have been seen as very acceptable, however with Huddersfield down near the bottom and North desperate for a win I think it will go down as a missed opportunity and might well be seen as the last chance for North End in this year’s play-offs.

We are six points behind sixth placed Cardiff City and with just five games to go I think it is now a bridge too far for this season after a dismal two points from four games since the return from lock down. Alex Neil and his players must not throw the towel in.

And I am sure they won’t, because a top-10 Championship finish will look not too bad in the history books of the years to come.

I don’t really want to get into the inquest of what went wrong this season because there are five games to play and with another 15 points to play for anything can happen, but it is clear that a goalscorer is required and a playmaker ready to go straight into the team must also be a priority.

Let’s hope we can finally end this win less run with a result at Hillsborough on Wednesday evening.